Bernard Jackman: “Munster can take a small consolation from defeat while Leinster has the opportunity to claim fifth European title”
The Champions League caused drama in Madrid on Wednesday night. Real scored twice in added time to force extra time to stun Manchester City and advance to the final. The rugby equivalent has spawned plenty of drama of its own over the years, and Munster and Toulouse have often been right in the thick of it. It was no different yesterday in a sunny Aviva stadium.
Unster recently managed a turnaround that coincided with the confirmation of Graham Rowntree as the next head coach. But it could also be down to their side, who have realized that playing for Munster is about achieving success and their legacy will be built on trophies above all else.
In order to win this competition, Munster had to start quickly. Toulouse have won just one of their last eight away games this season and Munster have had to test their confidence and determination on the road. The game against Toulouse is a high-risk, high-reward game, but they gave away a lot of possession and statistically conceded the most turnovers of any quarter-finalist this weekend.
But most importantly, Munster had to stop the best player in the world, Antoine Dupont, from doing what he does in almost every game he plays, which is “take your piss!”. I’ve never seen Dupont so shaken up as he was on Saturday, and as I watched their “king” being ransacked in the back of numerous backpacks, other key men began to look human.
At 63 minutes, that turnover stat was 13 to five in Munster’s favour, which tells a story of its own in terms of the fight Munster has put on and the pressure they have been putting on.
The Munsters were tactically very clever on the ball. They kicked a lot and tried to kick it long and further.
They kicked into dead ball three times in the first half alone, resulting in Toulouse having three goal-line strikes that restored possession to Munster in the right area of the field.
Munster consistently used Damian de Allende’s power to put them on the front foot, but they also showed creativity of their own, leading to the tries of Keith Earls and Mike Haley.
However, Toulouse tend to finish games strong. They take advantage of tired defenders and have a bench that is better than their regulars in some places.
They go with a 6/2 split and that power tends to hurt. Munster coped splendidly with that surge from Toulouse until they conceded a soft try from an alley when Matthis Lebel scored his second goal of the game from under the post without a hand being laid on him.
Toulouse had the ball almost exclusively for the last 20 minutes but some of the goals Munster scored were harrowing and inspiring.
Physically superior, they showed heart and resilience to keep defending their line. John Ryan forced a brilliant turnover from Cyril Baille to win a scrum for Munster but he couldn’t pin the tighthead side and after the penalty Thomas Ramos leveled the game and we went into overtime.
Both Ben Healy and Ramos missed drop goal attempts and with both teams tied on attempts scored we went to penalties. It’s a cruel way to lose, and Munster can walk away with their heads held high. They still have a shot at silverware through the URC and have shown they can take on the best in Europe.
In 2007, Leinster Schools and Clubs Pathway products Leo Cullen and Shane Jennings were persuaded by Michael Cheika and Mick Dawson to return to Dublin from the Leicester Tigers.
There were other high-profile and influential recruits, but the two local lads went a long way in changing the culture in the dressing room.
The Tigers were the dominant team in England and had a lead that we lacked in Leinster. It wasn’t a big speech or a powerpoint presentation but they set the standard day by day and we started to get harder on ourselves by asking for more every day. Those fundamentals are still in this Leinster squad.
Returning to Welford Road with his squad yesterday would have been very pleasing for Cullen. He met coach Steve Borthwick many times on the pitch but yesterday they met for the first time as head coach. Borthwick did a great job of putting the Tigers back at the top of the table but when he asked his side how many of them had played against Leinster before, he didn’t get many positive replies.
That should have been a warning sign. If you play Leinster regularly as a non-URC team, you’ll be knocking on the door of Champions Cup rugby. Teams like Leinster, Toulouse, Saracens and Munster have such experience in this competition that they know how important every moment is when you get to the knockout stages. You need to control the momentum and not give teams easy points.
Leinster had rested their frontliners when the younger players went to South Africa. The first team looked fresh and sharp from the start and attempts from Josh van der Flier and Robbie Henshaw were well executed, if too soft from the Tigers’ perspective.
Jamison Gibson-Park had a chair ride and the quality of the carry and clean meant he had a super fast ball. He’s the best scrumhalf in the world right now in my opinion when it comes to keeping the ball fast.
James Ryan came back brilliantly from injury and put in 76 minutes of superb work.
Shocked and 20 points down, the home side needed half-time and to be fair they rallied and scored the first goal through Chris Aston who broke the Premiership try-scoring record last week.
Leicester came back hard but a lineout steel from Ryan and a turnover when South African blindside Hanro Liebenberg made a quick tap but lost the ball on the following jerk showed how hard it is to bring down Leinster, even if they lose momentum. Every time Leinster got into the Tigers’ 22, they’ve scored, which is exceptional. Being under pressure this third quarter to remain calm and manage it well will benefit Leinster as there will be hairy moments against Toulouse next weekend.
As we’ve seen Toulouse win most of their games from the bench but I think Leinster have more than enough depth of their own and will be able to deal with the current champions in the Aviva.
I think this Leinster side has what it takes to win their fifth Champions Cup.
https://www.independent.ie/sport/rugby/champions-cup/munster-can-salvage-small-comfort-in-loss-while-leinster-have-ability-to-claim-fifth-european-title-41626233.html Bernard Jackman: “Munster can take a small consolation from defeat while Leinster has the opportunity to claim fifth European title”